TV Star Involved in Fatal Crash; Police Call Alcohol A Factor in Accident

Phill Lewis, son of Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. executive Delano E. Lewis and star of the network television show “Teech,” is under investigation by Montgomery County police in connection with a fatal automobile accident early Saturday.

Police said yesterday that alcohol and driver error contributed to the accident, which occurred about 1 a.m. in the 13100 block of River Road.

Barry Helfand, Lewis’s attorney, said he is conducting his own investigation. Helfanddeclined to comment on the police report that alcohol was a factor.

He said Lewis, 23, “has a loss of memory for some of these events, and he’s troubled by what he can’t remember.”

Helfand said that Lewis, of West Hollywood, Calif., was driving from the District to his parents’ Potomac home in a Buick that had been lent to his father.

Police said that Lewis was northbound on River Road and crossed the center line. The car he was driving collided head-on with a red Honda driven by a woman whom police identified as Isabel Durarte, 21, who was pronounced dead at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

Police gave her address as 2310 Tracy Pl. NW in the District, which is the Portuguese consulate. Luis Amorim de Sousa, spokesman for the Portuguese Embassy, said she is not employed there.

Lewis, also taken to Suburban Hospital, sustained injuries that were not life-threatening and was recovering yesterday at his parents’ home.

Helfand said that Lewis had a concussion and cuts and bruises, and that his wounds required stitches. “He will require some kind of surgery,” the lawyer said. Family members said Lewis was unavailable for comment.

His brother, Delano Lewis Jr., of San Diego, said the actor had been at his parents’ home since Thanksgiving. In October, “Teech” was suspended but not canceled.

In the situation comedy, launched by CBS on Sept. 18, Phill Lewis plays a black music teacher laid off from the South Philadelphia schools who takes a new job at an all-white boys’ school and must ride herd on an eclectic collection of privileged students.

Lewis attended Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan for two years, then returned to Washington for a year at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

He spent his senior year at Beverly Hills High School in California, staying with friends of the family.

After high school, Lewis pursued acting rather than attend college. He landed small parts in several television shows, including “Hill Street Blues,” and movie roles in such films as “City Slickers.”

Helfand said both Lewis and his parents “are very concerned about the death of the young girl, and they really are grieving over what the parents must feel like.” Delano E. Lewis is president and chief executive officer of C&P Telephone.

Helfand said Phill Lewis intends “to stick around here to see what’s going on, address any problems that come up and then go back” to California.

No charges had been filed late yesterday.